Quick Review (LP): The Whole Love by Wilco

Wilco
The Whole Love
dBPM; 2011

My Rating: B (66/100)

Best Tracks: "Art of Almost", "I Might", "Black Moon", "Born Alone", "One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)"

Wilco almost makes another great record.

TRACK NOTES

"Art of Almost" (4.5/5)

  • Probably their most obtuse cut since A Ghost Is Born, maybe even Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
  • Cool song, though unfortunately it’s not quite brilliant. Extra points for really trying though.
  • Also, as the opener, it doesn’t quite portend the overall sound of the record, which is really pretty conventional.

"I Might" (4.5/5)

  • Very nice poppy cut.
  • The organ reminds me of Elvis Costello’s early sound.
  • This is their best pure single since "Jesus, etc."

"Sunloathe" (4/5)

  • Reminds me of a Summerteeth rarity.
  • "Pieholden Suite", that’s what it reminds me of. It has that same vibe.
  • Very midwestern sound. The meandering piano work could’ve been sampled from "Dream On" or something.

"Dawned On Me" (3.5/5)

  • Hey, remember "You Never Know?"
  • OK, for someone who is such a completely off-kilter lyricist, I’m surprised at the fact that a cliché forms the basis for this song.
  • Nice performance otherwise.

"Black Moon" (4/5)

  • Smooth and mellow.
  • This actually sort of reminds me of their debut, but in a good way.
  • OK, as the somber tune of the bunch, me likey.

"Born Alone" (4.5/5)

  • Almost twee at first.
  • And then big ol’ distorted section blares in…
  • Brilliant lyrics. And I love the way the riff dissolves in dissonance at the end of each repetition.

"Open Mind" (4/5)

  • Hey, (it’s almost) alt-country!!!
  • This one’s swell and all. It’s sort of just a song…
  • Tweedy can write the pretty melodies, that’s fer sure.

"Capitol City" (3.5/5)

  • First we had a little Elvis Costello, now we’ve got a little P. Mac.
  • Tweedy said this one goes back to the Being There sessions. That’s a long time to sit on a track.
  • Fits right in with "Yellow Submarine", "Octopus’ Garden", etc.

"Standing O" (4/5)

  • Now this one REALLY emulates Elvis Costello.

"Rising Red Lung" (4/5)

  • Hushed.
  • The instrumentation reminds me a bit of Allman Brothers.

"Whole Love" (4/5)

  • Just what does this "Whole Love" look like?
  • I don’t know, but Jeff really wants to show it to us.

"One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)" (5/5)

  • Dear Wilco, More like this please. Love, Your Fans.
  • Seriously, this is the kind of thing that makes Wilco great.
  • This is their best closer, hands down, and probably in their top 10 cuts.

ALBUM NOTES

  • There are some brilliant moments here, and the album sports a great cover, but unfortunately I don’t think Wilco has hit their full potential with The Whole Love.
  • That being said, "One Sunday Morning" is absolutely fantastic. Probably one of the best tracks from anyone this year.
  • Wilco has, for the last 7 years, been perhaps the best live band anywhere. I wish they would let themselves go a bit on the epic, cosmically scoped rock Americana that they are so capable of. I think this version of the band has a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in them somewhere, and I don’t think they’ve made it yet. Tweedy may be just a bit too self-satisfied at this point. Perhaps a little divine discontent is in order?
  • Still, all in all, The Whole Love will certainly keep me coming back for more Wilco. While it may not be their best yet (it’s definitely a step up from their last LP), it’s a solid record, and one I expect to listen to quite a bit more in the coming months.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Songs (4.1/5)

Tracks of the Decade: “Impossible Germany” by Wilco

20080227-wilco-1“Impossible Germany”
by Wilco
from SKY BLUE SKY (2007)

Wilco’s sixth album, SKY BLUE SKY, was a huge turning point for the band, an album that to this day either inspires principled adoration or decisive disgust. “Impossible Germany” was the greatest track off that album, and say what you will about the album as a whole, their IS almost universal consensus that the track is one of Wilco’s greatest. I can’t imagine them ever playing live again without running through “Germany.” It’s the sort of slowly building epic that is bound to induce chills no matter how many times you hear it. The good news is that this stunning ensemble performance is captured to perfection “live in studio” on SKY BLUE SKY. The song’s plaintive country-jazz groove seamlessly segues into a Television-esque guitar freak-out, with the noodly guitars of Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone arguing themselves into harmony while Nels Cline brilliantly executes his patented Nels Cline guitar solo. At root, it’s one of Tweedy’s prettiest latter-day melodies, a low-key but frustrated meditation on communication breakdown. In the spirit of the track itself, I won’t put across strident arguments for its status as one of the decade’s greatest. “Impossible Germany” qualifies for its sonic excellence alone. It’s an audiophile’s fantasy worthy of repeated headphone indulgence, and it confirms that the future is wide open for one of the decade’s greatest bands.